By Anna Trevelyan
I’ve always admired those people who say exactly what they think. It’s a risky strategy, as those who speak their true minds do tend to divide opinion (and have a fair few enemies) but is it really necessary to want everyone to like you?
How refreshing, I thought, to not have to self-edit and to just say exactly what’s on your mind. So I tried it one day. Here’s what happened.
The day began quite well. My husband and I tend to be quite frank with one another, ditto my toddler, so by 7am so far so normal.
Upon arrival at work I met a colleague at the entrance. We walked in together and he asked me how I was. Instead of usual “fine thanks!” I said “a bit achy really. Plus I’m fairly worried my breath smells like a used nappy.” The look on his face was priceless. He was still staring at me with that pitying half frown (usually reserved for one-legged-pigeons, or animals inappropriately humping in public) when I skipped on past him to retrieve a mint from my desk draw.
Apart from a few fraught phone calls (it turns out Finance don’t like it when you tell them the truth: that you haven’t called them back because it “really wasn’t a priority”) the morning passed without too much drama.
The next sticky situation came when I was tasked with showing someone around the building. They must have thought me quite mad, and rather cynical (the latter of which I am usually not). In response to their questions I advised them to consider bringing in their own loo roll, as well as revealing the truth about the meat in the canteen and finally that I had to cut the tour short because I had more important things to do. I felt a bit mean really but it was the cold hard truth.
Later on a friend sent me a message to ask what I thought about a certain man. I think she was hoping I’d compliment his nice personality, but instead I was forced to point out his rather prominent nose hair.
Things started to go downhill when a colleague kindly offered me some home baking in the afternoon and I declined – explaining that their biscuits simply “weren’t worth the calories” -and when I went to a meeting I told someone else that their jumper really wasn’t very flattering. I also complained to the cafe that their cups were a bit grubby, and I found myself ranting in an open-plan office about how pointless I think Ellie Goulding is.
My final moment of speaking my mind came when I was chatting on the phone to my best friend in the evening. Instead of casually closing the conversation, I told her the ugly truth: “Sorry, I’d better go now as I really need a poo.” Her stunned silence and uneasy laugh told me that it was time to stop, and start self-censoring again for the sake of everyone around me.
I have to admit, it was quite a cathartic exercise. I have never over-shared that much, and I have never disclosed so much about my personal life and habits to colleagues and near strangers. It actually felt fairly self indulgent and quite lonely, and I’m still un-doing some of the truths dished out that day. So, although it was easier to say exactly what I thought -the fallout was more hard work than it was worth. I was also aware that people were discussing my don’t-care attitude, and whether it was my ‘time of the month’, which was uncomfortable to say the least.
I still admire those who speak their mind. It takes a thick skin, a cut-throat standpoint and real confidence in your own views (not to mention a willingness to share EVERYTHING). So, for now, I’m quite comfortable with keeping some stuff to myself.